After visiting many properties this spring, new and old, there are a few things that are sticking out this year that are a little more prominent than others.
Recently, we have received several calls from customers regarding brown spots that have appeared on their lawn over the last week or two. Some of the communication is a day or two after we left the property, and many are weeks after we visited last. When dealing with Mother Nature, it’s important to look at the big picture. I can assure you that when we receive a call relating to a decreased appearance and change in overall health we take it very seriously! First off when you experience any issues with your lawn we want you to know that we are here to help! Proper diagnosis is the first step and the most crucial.
After a brief look at the weather conditions, we have been experiencing most if not all these issues, can be blamed on that. Many lawns are experiencing heat stress. Heat stress happens when we go for a long period without rain and then a quick spike or several spikes in temperature happen consecutively. You also must take into account the soil base your lawn was constructed on. If it’s sandy to gravel base, then you can rest assured your lawn will experience more up and down swings with stress than a lawn comprised more of clay or loam. The photos below are a perfect example of heat stress. The photos were taken over the last couple days in our area. In addition to these photos, you can see the historical weather data for Brewer for the last couple weeks. I’ve colored the valleys blue and added a red line across the top temperature graph. The blue valleys indicate dramatic swings in temperature and the red line indicates the threshold at which our beloved cool-season turfgrasses begin to experience stress. Anything above that line will surely start to stress our lawns. However, when you add in dramatic temperature swings fungus will begin to cause issues. On top of that long period of drought, you have a recipe for many different stress factors. Please note that if you are unable to adequately provide moisture to your lawn in periods of drought, then you need to understand that stress is a natural occurrence that will happen. Just like if it’s allergy season and many folks are getting infections and congestion, the same is happening for turfgrass. Many lawns that may be experiencing the recent weather-related stressors, more than likely come out of it just fine. If you do decide to water the affected areas, please do it in the morning only. Also, water deeply and infrequently, 1 hour in each spot to saturate the soil. Minimize leaf wetness by reducing the frequency and increasing the time of each watering. Watering properly (IF YOU CAN DO IT) is KEY! You can promote more fungus if you decide to water every day. Many of these stressed areas are now highly susceptible to fungus and “LEAF BLIGHT” is the fungus of choice right now. Most all lawns should grow out of this. Feel free to send us a photo or two of any sections of your lawn that may be experiencing any issues. In addition, ensure you are mowing with a sharp mower blade. We have seen many lawns that have heat stress that would have been dramatically reduced if they were mowing with sharp blades as opposed to dull ones. You should be sharpening your mower blade for your own lawn once or twice per season. If you have a landscaper mowing your lawn, then they should be sharpening weekly, depending on the number of lawns they service. The two days of rain we just received couldn’t come at a better time. It’s unfortunate it wasn’t sooner. 🙁
Creeping bentgrass is the same grass variety that grows on golf course greens. Sometimes this grass makes its way into our residential lawns. Not all homeowners are aware of this grass or even care about it. However, this spring (being that it has been even later than last year) seems to have triggered more phone calls about this issue. The common complaint is that “I have brown spots that aren’t greening up”. Given the fact that there are many reasons lawns may have brown spots makes that a loaded question from the get-go. Creeping bentgrass is designed to be mown short, very short! In fact, it’s ideal cut height is about 1/4″ or less! Our cool season desireable grasses such as Kentucky bluegrass, Ryegrass, and fescues of sorts are ideally mown around 2.5″ – 4″ in height for optimal health. When you get creeping bentgrass in a lawn, it tends to give a shaggy appearance and tends to fill in areas that may be less dense with our desirable grasses. Another issue with Creeping bentgrass is that it’s very susceptible to fungus specifically, Snow Mold. Many lawns that have bentgrass were affected by snow mold and may or may not recover. We suggest vigorously raking these areas to remove the dead thatch and loosening the top 1/2″ – 1″ of soil and apply grass seed. After seeding, step on the seed to force it into the soil. Then water lightly each day a couple of times to keep the surface where the seed is moist. This will help germinate more desirable grasses in these areas and “out-compete” the bentgrass. There are some control options available but should be discussed as timing is key. Many of the lawns that we have looked at just haven’t had enough time to “wake up”. Creeping bentgrass usually is the last grass to green up in the spring and the first to brown out in the summer when the heat becomes in issue. With heat comes fungus and Creeping bentgrass is usually one of the first to experience fungal attacks. Here is a photo of what creeping bentgrass is looking like right now in our area.
Poa Annua or Annual Bluegrass
We have received several inquiries regarding “why do I have this weed on my lawn”? There are many different weeds that can grow inside a lawn. The real question is what makes a weed a weed? That is probably the most important question here. If you say it’s a weed then it’s a weed! Not everyone considers a specific plant a weed unless it’s unwanted. Then it can be called a weed. That said Poa annua is always an issue this time of the season. Many folks hate it and others don’t mind it at all. You can see the photos below to see if you have it on your lawn. First off, it’s an annual. That means it drops seeds and new plants germinate. The old plants die off and the new plants sprout up. This is different than our perennial grasses which grow year after year and die only when under attack by pests such as fungus or insects. The largest issue folks have with annual bluegrass is the seed heads it produces. It’s the flower of the grass. Since this plant is a prolific seed producer you will see the seed heads produced a few times per year. Primarily right now. After a few mowings, the seed heads will be cut off and the plant will look normal again. However, you should know that you are spreading the seeds all over your lawn by doing this. You will continue to see this plant in your lawn. Applying a pre-emergent in the springtime to prevent crabgrass will also prevent poa annua from growing in your lawn. Have a look at the photos below.
Tick management seems to be the largest request this year for pest management. This year is our first year devoting a technician solely to performing these services. We have provided landscape pest management services for over 15 years and with the uptick (no pun intended) in calls over the last few years, it’s becoming a larger issue that people are becoming aware of. Lyme disease, anaplasmosis,
Ticks have been spreading and are overwintering extremely well. A female tick can lay up to 3000 eggs! Knowing
We will be posting more articles on ticks in the near future to help spread knowledge in protecting your loved ones while being in the outdoors. Until then, wear light-colored clothing, try to pull your socks over your pants if working in the yard or taller vegetation. Ticks will “quest” in vegetation up to 4′ – 5′ in height. Edges of fields and trails through the woods are prime areas where ticks will wait for a passerby. Brushing against branches or vegetation is the prime method of getting a tick on you. They prey on deer, rodents, and other smaller animals and feed on blood. If gone unnoticed, they can transmit disease within 36 – 48 hours. Please check yourself after returning inside from the outdoors. I remember running around outside as a child and never had to worry about ticks! Please be aware.